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Star Trek: Picard's costumes showcase how characters have changed and what adventures come next
Star Trek: Picard takes a different point of view than the Star Trek shows of yore. It's more introspective, for one, more focused on delving into who Picard is (and was) as a person than it is in being a slick, fast-paced futuristic science fiction show.
This approach is intentional, and you can feel these stylistic differences not only in each place we've visited so far this season but also in the show's costume design. Deciding what each character is wearing — both new characters and those we've known for decades — is a deliberate, thoughtful process that takes a multitude of factors into consideration. SYFY WIRE spoke with Christine Bieselin Clark, Star Trek: Picard's costume designer, about how she made the characters' clothes reflect both who they are as well as their current circumstances in any given scene.
**Spoiler Warning: Mild spoilers for the first five episodes of Star Trek: Picard.**
In order to create the right look and feel for the clothing on the show, Clark's starting point was becoming intimately familiar with what costume design was like in previous Star Trek franchises. "It's like an archeological expedition for a costume designer," she says. "There was a lot of reflecting, revisiting, watching, and going back and looking at characters as they've been depicted."
This especially held true for the show's titular character, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). "We've had so much exposure and understanding of Picard on many levels throughout all his years on film and television, and this show brings a new perspective on things," Clark explains. "We want Picard to seem like our hero, always, but to also soften him a little bit, and show his vulnerability and his personal struggles and humanity. It was important to us in the clothing to make choices he would make — Picard comes from a lifetime of service and structure and order; the idea of flair is a little bit silly. But he is also a very fit and active and viable older man, and we wanted to make sure his clothes reflect that."
Picard's wardrobe also provides an opportunity to illustrate how he's changed since he left Starfleet. A great example of this is in "Absolute Candor," where we start the episode with a flashback of Picard visiting the Romulan refugee camp on Vashti when he was still with Starfleet. In this first visit, Picard is wearing an all-white suit with his Starfleet badge glimmering in the Vashti sun; he is confident, sure that what he and Starfleet are doing is righteous and good.
Later in the episode, however, Picard returns to present-day Vashti. Both he and the Romulans living there have changed significantly since his last visit. Everything is bleaker and darker, and Picard's clothes — more rugged and darker themselves — reflect that. Clark explains that this contrast was intentional: "We wanted to see intention and hope the first time, and a much a darker shift in perspective the second time we went to Vashti."
A character's location also informs how they are dressed. We saw this most clearly with the loud, fun outfits everyone wore on Freecloud (Clark's single inspiration for Bjazal's outfit was bioluminescent jellyfish) in "Stardust City Rag." We also saw it come into play at the beginning of the season, where we spend much of our time on Picard's chateau, a place that was cozy and, in many ways, familiar to those of us living on Earth in the 21st century. This familiarity was also intentional — the clothes Picard and others wore at the chateau were meant to evoke comfort rather than a futuristic, sci-fi feel.
"When we went to the chateau, it was very much about a warm, beautiful, lovely color palette that fits in with the stone and the beauty of the space," Clark explains. "Our intention was to evoke an emotion… we wanted it to feel familiar. There are very subtle and weird little twists to the line and asymmetry of things, but it's not too bizarre. When you leave that chateau and go on the adventure of the entire first season, you have to miss something. And we have to feel like this is a place to be missed, and that it's difficult for him to leave."
On the La Sirena, Rios' ship, however, we get a blend of the characters' personal style seen through the limitations of what the La Sirena can provide. "These are replicators that are making these clothes for them," Clark explains. "It's whatever Rios has on hand. So again we have a color palette that's very married to the environment, and we mirrored the linework, shapes, and geometry that you see in the ship on the clothes."
But even though each crew member had the same replicators to work with, Clark made sure that each character's personality was reflected in their clothing choices: "You try to put yourself into the character's point of view," she says. "There has to be some sort of purpose and intention that's still connected who we saw before they got on the ship." That's why the same replicator spits out something utilitarian and slightly awkward-looking for Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill) while Raffi's look (Michelle Hurd) is more sleek and streamlined.
And then there are our beloved returning characters. The one we've seen the most of so far (besides Picard, of course) is Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Clark deliberately moved away from the classic silver catsuit she sported in Star Trek: Voyager:
"Seven of Nine's intention and purpose has always been to be a strong character, and her physical strength plays heavily into the story arc in the first season of Picard. Our choices for her were very much about this renegade warrior, Robin Hood-like character," Clark says. "She comes from the Fenris Rangers, and it's a ragtag bunch of people who are trying to defend the rights of the underserved and underprivileged. And her choices in that wouldn't be about revealing her physical self in the same way."
And while William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) haven't made an appearance yet this season, Clark promises that the colors the two were associated with on Star Trek: The Next Generation will carry through to Picard. Riker, in particular, will receive an upgrade from his memorable out-of-uniform outfits from TNG.
And even though Picard is a different take on the Star Trek universe, one thing remained paramount to Clark during her long hours creating clothing for the characters: "There is a fanbase here that has given a lot of love and devotion to these characters and to the franchise for many decades, and we always want to make sure we respect them in that process," she says. "We took all that information and put that into this show. It's a very different point of view, yes, but I hope the fans enjoy that."